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Do milk products cause increased mucus in asthmatics, especially in children?

Milk is not a cause of increased mucus production, nor is it considered to be an asthma trigger (Table Asthma Myths and Falsehoods). Consumption of milk has no effect on lung capacity, either deleterious or beneficial. It is a myth that milk is somehow harmful to children with asthma. Milk can, however, be an allergen in sensitized children. Cow’s milk allergy is a true food allergy and is due to an allergy to the protein constituents of the milk. Like many food allergies, milk allergy usually manifests as gastrointestinal symptoms, or as a skin reaction such as hives or eczema, but not as increased mucus. If you suspect that milk does not agree with your child, bring it to your physician’s attention. Do not automatically eliminate milk and milk products from the child’s diet without medical consultation and advice. I clearly remember a very charming and delightful 3-year-old girl who refused to drink milk, and told her mother repeatedly “milk makes me sick.”

Table Asthma Myths and Falsehoods

• Asthma is a purely psychological disease.
• Mothers with asthma should never breastfeed.
• An asthmatic who never wheezes doesn’t have asthma.
• People with asthma should never exercise.
• Children and young people with asthma should be exempted from gym class, and should not be required to fulfill a physical education requirement in school.
• Milk and dairy products cause excess mucus and worsen asthma.
• Asthmatics will become “addicted” or dependent on their asthma medications.
• All children will eventually outgrow their asthma and will be “cured” with time.

The parents were convinced that the girl was allergic to milk; after all, allergies ran in the family, and an older sibling had multiple food allergies. Luckily, rather than blindly eliminate milk and dairy products from the toddler’s diet, the parents sought a professional opinion. The child saw a pediatric allergist and repeated her story. The doctor casually asked if chocolate milk tasted good. The child insisted that chocolate milk was “good” but that the white milk made her “sick.” Needless to say, allergy testing was performed. The results showed that the child was not allergic to milk, nor was she allergic to chocolate. She was, in her own special way, trying to convince her mother to substitute chocolate milk for “the usual.” Lacking the sophistication to explain herself, she instead tried to convince her parents in her own way that milk was “no good!”

Do milk products cause increased mucus in asthmatics, especially in children?

Growing children need calcium in their diets to promote bone health and proper development. In addition to calcium, dairy products are a significant dietary source of protein, riboflavin, and Vitamins A and B12. You should consider having your child evaluated for possible milk allergy if you have any concerns about milk and dairy products affecting their asthma. If your child is allergic to milk, treatment will include elimination of dairy products. Your physician will assist you in modifying your child’s diet without compromising his or her nutritional status.

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